HxGN RadioPodcast

Proactively Managing the Construction Site

BK:  Welcome back to HxGN RADIO. I’m Brian. Thanks for joining us.

One of the most common issues in the AEC construction industry is linking the design, office, site, trades, progress and ongoing issues. Without a complete integrated view of the project, many construction decisions are made reactively. This creates a situation where it is difficult to take proactive and timely design and construction decisions, which can affect the project, from budget overrun to schedule slippage. HxGN SMART Build offers the promise of removing these data silos in the project to help support improved construction execution.

In today’s episode, we are talking with Kevin Holmes, senior vice president of HxGN SMART Build. Kevin, thanks for joining us.

KH:  Thank you.

BK:  Appreciate it. Hope you’re having a good day today. We’re going to have some fun and learn a lot.

KH:  Okay. Thank you very much.

BK:  I love it. All right, so tell me a little bit about the biggest issues that are faced on the construction site, based on what you’ve heard.

KH:  Okay, I would say the biggest issue is the fact that you probably only get somewhere between 30 to 50 per cent productivity from a worker.

BK:  Wow.

KH:  At least half, maybe two-thirds, of the time is spent waiting or looking around for information, coming from the 20th floor down to the bottom, reading a drawing, going back up, and it’s just unproductive work.

BK:  Absolutely.

KH:  So that has an impact. It really affects margins. How do you coordinate multiple trades on the site when there’s a lot of work going on and you really need to start managing those people more effectively? We’ve seen BIM strategies bringing information towards the construction site and, as you say, linking the office and the construction site together. I think really what we should be looking for is to try to plan the work more effectively and then measure what’s happening and get an immediate feedback loop so you can be proactive in actually working.

BK:  Absolutely. Have there been any major initiatives within the industry or technology to help address these?

KH:  Yeah. I think there’s a lot of technology. Building information modelling, BIM, that’s one of the biggest initiatives, but it tends to be something around the design area, bringing the building information model together and coordinating that against multiple trades. But it hasn’t really supported the construction worker themselves. Construction workers themselves, they need something really simple. They need it in context. They need information, not data, and then they need to be able to visualise that information together. So I think they’re the strategies that people are looking for. BIM started to help address that, but it’s still got a long way to go.

BK:  Absolutely. HxGN’s SMART Build, how does that help to address some of these issues?

KH:  Okay, maybe three points is the best way to answer it; give you three simple things.

BK:  I like that.

KH:  First one is, if you can tell 20% into the project what’s going to happen at the end, 20% in I can tell you whether we’re going to be on time and whether we’re going to overrun on cost.

BK:  Oh, I like that.

KH:  Within 10%, being able to give that kind of predictive look ahead, that’s massively valuable, and that’s one of the things that SMART Build’s really offering.

The other one is helping people to visualise information more effectively. So today, if I gave a director of a project drawings, Gantt charts, spreadsheets, all different types of information coming to him, he really wants to see it in one consolidated, accurate and up-to-date piece of information. What you see is many people are spending a lot of time collecting data and telling him what happened a month ago so he can start fixing the issue that’s a month old. That’s not good. We can help there with visualising and bringing information immediately from the construction site, bring it into a coordinated cost schedule and design view, and then graphically see where you’re going wrong on the project or where you’re doing well on the project. That helps you more effectively manage the project.

Then the final one I think is just that breaking down silos of information. The construction team have too many disciplines, too many members, too much information. So if you can bring it together, consolidate it and not have siloed information, then Hexagon SMART Build doing that gives a massive value to the project.

BK:  Absolutely. Saving time, simplifying the process; I love that. All right, so looking ahead, taking proactive action—describe this a little bit more and cover why companies find it hard to do this today.

KH:  I think they’re finding it hard to do because they tend to do the reactive approach rather than the proactive approach. They’re all looking to be more proactive in the way in which they work, but when you’ve got a job site, you’ve got a Portakabin, you’ve got all of the different trades in there, they’re looking how to fix the issues.

BK:  Yeah.

KH:  Yeah.  And that’s the point; they’re looking how to fix the issues. If you could actually plan more effectively, as you would do with Hexagon SMART Build, and then coordinate more effectively across everybody, I think you can eliminate some of the issues, certainly drive out changes in the project—

BK:  Yes.

KH:  —and then manage it more effectively. So I think that’s where we’re really looking to be going.

BK:  More proactively, less reactively.

KH:  Yeah, yeah.

BK:  Excellent, excellent. All right, what’s a little bit of insight on how this ability to be more proactive will affect the industry?

KH:  Yeah, so the value proposition is immense. If you start looking at 7% of a construction project as rework, just taking 1% of that away doubles the profitability of the project.

BK:  Yes.

KH:  Massive. There’s going to be major, major impacts to the industry. Having people more productive, as I said at the beginning, less time looking for information, less time walking around the site, and then getting people to work in a coordinated way. I can see that the wall’s going to be late, so the guy that’s coming to fit the windows is informed much earlier. And what you see on a construction site today is people turn up and go, oh, I can’t do the work; wait, change request. We can streamline that a lot, and I think the profitability impact is immense for the industry.

BK:  Absolutely. Okay, so you mentioned that there’s a productivity level that’s very low right now. What are you getting them up to on average?

KH:  Yeah, that’s interesting. Obviously, it’s different with every different project—

BK:  Of course, of course.

KH:  —different client, and different levels of maturity. But I’d suggest it isn’t unreasonable by looking at what’s been achieved in other industries to look at an increase of 10% productivity.

BK:  Oh, that’s fantastic.

KH:  And I take that reference from the oil and gas industry, where Hexagon have also got a large market share, and they use advanced work packaging in that industry. We bring that technology through into the AEC construction industry, and, again, if it can get a significant increase—and 10% is much lower than what they’ve achieved—if we can just bring that forward and achieve that in the AEC industry, again, that’s what I’m saying, it’s a massive impact to the industry’s profitability.

BK:  Absolutely.

KH:  It changes the outlook of the project, changes the finances of the project.

BK:  Yeah. Well, like you said, every little bit helps because over time that really builds. That’s fantastic. I love that. As we’re moving more into a more digitalised industry, what should professionals be looking for in technologies that will help them to manage in the construction site?

KH:  I think it’s, again, maybe three things.

BK:  Sure.

KH:  Connected information, yeah? If you’ve got silos, you’re in no way going to be able to optimise the process. Clarity of information, yeah? A lot of technology in the BIM space would be legacy applications that take an expert a week to learn, and then if you give that to the site, the average worker hasn’t got it. So something that’s easy to use, something that’s mobile, something that’s like using your iPhone and really quick to be able to get to understand and then gives you information in context to the way in which you work. And then, I guess going with that clarity is, maybe I mentioned it, but simplicity.

BK:  Absolutely.

KH:  Connect the information together, make it in context and clear to the way in which you need the information, and make it simple so that everybody can use it. Then people start using information, and then they’re better informed, and then you can make a big change to the project.

BK:  They’re already busy. They’ve got other things to be worrying about, and so being able to make it simple so that they can focus on what they’re best at? Absolutely.

KH:  Yeah.

BK:  Much more productivity. I love that. Kevin, thank you very much. Anything else you want to share as we wrap up?

KH:  No. I think there’s a lot of information on the Hexagon website about SMART Build. If people want to find more, maybe go and look at the website or, obviously, call us. We’re very able to maybe look at your work processes as a company and help to improve. That’s what we’d like to do.

BK:  Excellent. Thank you very much. You can actually go over to as well and check out more information. Thank you again, Kevin. Appreciate your time.

KH:  Thank you very much.

BK:  Be sure to tune in to more episodes on, or you can head over to iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher Radio. Thank you very much for listening.